First of all, I apologize for my long absence! I’d intended to blog while I was overseas, but my internet connection in Taiwan was spotty and China decided to block WordPress. I’ve spent the past few days adjusting to jetlag, but I think I’m more or less recovered. Last night was interesting, though. I had to teach a GRE math bootcamp course that I was not fully prepared for, and it turned out that half my class was a math major. Perfect, right? On top of that, I was getting really loopy by 9 pm. Distributive law what?
Anyway, I’m getting horribly off-topic. To begin this series, I’ll share a day I spent with my uncle’s family in Kaohsiung. All of my extended family gathered at the home to celebrate Mother’s Day a week early. I’d spent the first few days upon my arrival with my aunt’s family in Taichung. In the past, I had got along better with my cousin in Taichung, Jacky. After being transported and dumped in Kaohsiung, I was slightly nervous. I hadn’t seen my relatives in four years, but remarkably they looked exactly as I remembered them. During the Mother’s Day lunch, I didn’t even make eye contact with my two Kaohsiung cousins. There’s an interesting story behind that, but first, about the food.
In the past, I had enjoyed irking my Taiwanese relatives by claiming that Chinese food was much better. Perhaps it was true back then, perhaps I had been weirdly biased towards China. In any case, this time, Taiwan wins the food contest hands down. This particular dish was tasty until my relatives told me what it was. You take the thing that resembles a pig in a blanket and wrap it in seaweed. At first, I thought that it was some kind of sausage wrapped inside, but then my uncle informed me that it was fish egg. With this new development, I began to imagine a giant fish egg that was big enough to produce slices five inches in length. Immediately, I was sick to my stomach. I’d finally accepted the idea of roe in my sushi, but this? Then, my relatives explained that it didn’t come from one titan egg, but many eggs fused together and then dried. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to eat any more of the delicacy. Little did I know, I’d be eating much worse in a few weeks.
Back to my Kaohsiung cousins. One of them, the older, has been my mortal enemy since childhood. He thought I was a spoiled brat from America and I thought he was an annoying Asian dude. I know, my insults are not very specific. We were constantly clashing heads and ended up avoiding each other whenever I visited. Expecting him (let’s call him Big Mao) to continue our Cold War, I was surprised when my grandmother told me he wanted to take me out at night. Eyes wide, I wondered if he was going to dump me in a gutter somewhere. You see, there’s a few more things you should know about Big Mao. Firstly, his father looks like this:
He’s the one on the right. Well, I’m assuming you already concluded that much. The woman in the photo is my other aunt. While you can’t really tell in this photo, my uncle is a pretty scary-looking man. He rarely smiles, and when he does, he looks positively evil. Plus, my mother used to tell me stories about him, how he beat up people he didn’t like and sauntered down the streets with his champion show dogs. To me, he could be straight out of a Hong Kong triad. His son, Big Mao, doesn’t look anything like him, but they both have that standoffish vibe. My mom also told me that Big Mao didn’t do well in school. Combining that with his chain-smoking habit, dark skinny jeans, leather motorcycle jacket, and moped, I concluded that my cousin was a Taiwanese gangster. Therefore, when I hopped aboard his moped and he raced off into the night, I was simultaneously terrified and exhilarated.
The problem was that I thought I might actually fall off, and that would be really embarrassing. But I didn’t want to wrap my arms around Big Mao’s waist. First of all, he was my cousin, which made that a little weird. Secondly, we were mortal enemies…I couldn’t touch him! To solve the predicament, I placed my hands lightly on his shoulders and tried not to squeeze when we hit potholes. Big Mao had told me that we were meeting his friends, and I was determined to make a good impression among these slightly older, badass Taiwanese boys.
To find out what happened when I finally did, come back for Part Two.